It can feel scary to think about changing the way we engage with our donors. We’re trying to serve our communities, after all. And donor-centered fundraising has been the modus operandi of our development efforts for a long time. It stands to reason that celebrating our donors will keep them coming back – and, in turn, keep our lights on. But as we evolve to think more deeply about the ways in which institutional racism has impacted our communities, it becomes necessary to ask ourselves if our long-standing methods are the best, most equitable ones to rely on. The Community-Centric Fundraising movement suggests a shift in perspective – and one that just might make a lot of sense for our sector.
Why Community-Centric Fundraising?
Donor-centered fundraising has taught us not to treat donors like ATMs. It encourages us to build relationships with our donors. And it reminds us to value every donation and genuinely thank the donors that support us. But donor-centered fundraising has also meant we can find ourselves catering to donor preference without requiring donor expertise. We “chase the money,” even if we know our communities would benefit more from a different approach. We also avoid talking about how so many of our donors acquired their wealth – because it’s often via the very systems we’re otherwise working against. It begs the question – if we can’t openly name these systems, how can we work to dismantle them? A fundraising model that centers our communities confronts all of these dilemmas. It puts the focus on the very stakeholders our mission statements name and elevate. And it invites our donors to work alongside us in our efforts.
Implementing Community-Centric Fundraising Principles
Your path to true Community-Centric Fundraising will be as unique as your organization itself. But the core values and principles of this framework are natural fits for any nonprofit seeking to embrace equity within its operations and programs. Here are some steps you can take to start your journey toward a fundraising process that centers on the community you serve. Clarify your mission, funding priorities, and gift acceptance policies. This process will help you grow initiatives that get to the heart of the racist, inequitable systems that make so many of our organizations necessary in the first place. Understand and own the role your organization has played in the past. Have you centered community voices or taken a top-down approach? This could require some tricky conversations with your board and leadership team. Not everyone will be on board for change, so have a pipeline, just in case. Begin the conversation with your current donors. Introduce the topic intentionally to donors and supporters by incorporating more of the Community-Centric Fundraising principles into your communications and pushing back when donors raise objections or make requests that are not in line with your organization’s values. Promote other organizations. One Community-Centric Fundraising principle is that the collective is more important than any single organization. So if you know another nonprofit in your community is doing essential work, shed the scarcity mindset and direct donors to them, as well.
Adapt the Model to Your Unique Organization
The best way to implement Community-Centric Fundraising is simply to be open and honest with your donors and community. Don’t shy away from the tough conversations, but do find a way to integrate the principles of Community-Centric Fundraising into your organization that supports and benefits your community.